Ben van Beurden, first oil major CEO to promise to cut product emissions (Scope 3), steps down 


Ben van Beurden will hand over the helm of Shell to Wael Sawan on January 1, the company announced today. Activist shareholder Follow This welcomes the new Shell CEO.

“Ben van Beurden was the first oil major CEO to talk about cutting product emissions (Scope 3), now Wael Sawan has to walk the walk,” said Mark van Baal, founder of the group of green shareholders Follow This. “Wael Sawan has to set meaningful emissions reductions target in line with the Paris Climate Agreement.”

“We hope Wael Sawan will see our climate resolution for what it is: a shareholder mandate to drive the energy transition and that he advises shareholders to vote in favour in 2023.”

Crossing the Rubicon
“Van Beurden was the CEO that saw investor focus shift from the profits of his company to the contribution of his company in achieving the Paris Climate Agreement. He had no good answer to that and continued developing new oil and gas fields. Nevertheless, we commend him for crossing the Rubicon on Scope 3.”

“We look forward to engage with the new leadership. If Sawan embraces the Paris Climate Agreement, responsible investors will support him to take leadership in the fight against the climate crisis.”

“We hope the new CEO will really listen to a growing group of shareholders that supports oil majors to really change.”

“Sawan has to overcome the same disadvantage as Van Beurden: decades of success in oil and gas. We hope his recent year in renewables has stimulated his imagination beyond oil and gas.”

Wael Sawan in 2030
“Wael Sawan has the most challenging job in the history of Shell: drastically reducing emissions by 2030 as more and more investors request and the Dutch judge has ordered. If he stays CEO as long as Van Beurden, this will be within his tenure, in 2030.”

“He has to make bold decisions to explore new business models instead of new oil and gas. If he fails to deliver deep emissions cuts, he puts the company at great financial risk. Perhaps the greatest financial risk comes from litigation. Oil, coal and gas companies will be held liable for the staggering costs of devasting climate change. Other financial risks are stranded assets and disruptive innovation.

Ben van Beurden and Follow This 
Follow This filed climate resolutions requesting Paris-consistent emissions reduction targets. Ben van Beurden saw a growing group of shareholders vote in favour of the Follow This climate resolution, despite new promises every year; from 2.7% in 2016 to 20% in 2022 (with a high point of 30% in 2021).

In 2017, he responded to the Follow This climate resolutions, by being the first oil major CEO to promise to cut product emissions (Scope 3).

Shell advised shareholders to vote against the Follow This climate resolutions by calling them “unwise” (2016), “unreasonable” (2017), “unnecessary” (2018, 2020, and 2021), and “unrealistic” 2022 (Notice of Meeting, page 7).

“We wish the new CEO to see our climate resolution as wise, reasonable, necessary and realistic.”

Van Baal and Van Beurden in 2015

Van Baal and Van Beurden in 2015